Iceland has been on my list for awhile, so I jumped at the chance when one of my best friends from college invited me on a last minute trip. She and I studied abroad in Jordan together and traveled around Asia for months after college, so I was really excited to travel with her again. Plus, the itinerary was already laid out and all I had to do was book a flight. It was a dream scenario, and Iceland is a dream country. Apologies in advance for the very photo-heavy post––I couldn’t resist!
Our trip lasted two weeks, and in that time I think we got a very thorough view of Iceland. Of course, like with anywhere, it could have been longer and there is always more to see and do. We flew into Reykjavik and headed west, varying from the usual route east and around the country, but I’m glad we did it this way because we encountered less traffic and saw the west fjords first, and they were by far my favorite part of the trip.
Overwhelmed by the scenery, we stopped about every five minutes to take photos. As the trip went on, our stops became less frequent, so I’m glad we visited the most beautiful part of the country (in my opinion) first while our excitement was still high. Another great thing about the west fjords was how empty it is (was? Iceland has seen a massive rise in tourism over the last five years, something that will only continue). We stopped in tiny fishing villages lodged into mountains and other than that didn’t see any people for miles.
A few days in, we arrived in Akureyri, a small town that seemed huge for Iceland standards. Here, we went horseback riding and stopped at the Reykyafoss and Goðafoss waterfalls, both impressive even if they were the hundredth or so waterfalls we’d seen in four days.
Continuing north, we visited the Mývatn Geothermal Area, the Stóra-Víti Crater (where parts of Game of Thrones is filmed, and partly the reason for that tourism increase) the and the Mývatn Nature Baths, among other things.
Heading northeast, we went whale watching, which was by far one of the best parts of the trip.
Then we saw (surprise!) more waterfalls before heading to the east coast.
Though I fell completely in love with the west, all of Iceland is stunning, so to say the eastern coast was anything less would be a lie. Green, lush, waterfalls springing from hillsides and sea stacks looming off the highway made for a picturesque few days.
One highlight of the east coast was a day spent wandering around the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Fjallsárlón Lake, and glacier hiking in Skaftafell National Park.
Also on the east coast is an abandoned American naval plane–a perfect photo setting and conversation topic. Why has it never been moved? Why do tourists love it so much? We’ll never know.
Almost back to Reykjavik, we lounged in the Blue Lagoon, which I found a bit disappointing after all the hype and photos I’ve seen. It was very crowded, and didn’t have the same tranquil vibe as the Myvatn baths. (It also wasn’t blue, but that was in part due to cloudy skies).
Also nearby Reykjavik is the ‘Bridge Between Two Continents,’ which is probably not the most picturesque thing to do in Iceland, but interesting as it crosses over a fissure in tectonic plates on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The bridge serves as a symbolic connection from Europe to North America, and we had (too much?) fun running across and jumping around in the no man’s land in the middle.
Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we were excited to be in a city (even at only around 150,00 it feels HUGE), drink great coffee, eat something aside from skyr (even though we did become a bit addicted), and do some souvenir shopping.
Heading out after two weeks, I felt satisfied with the trip. We had seen and done so much, and traveled around the entire country. Still, I wouldn’t mind returning in different seasons to see how the landscape changes, or to see the northern lights. Until then, I have thousands of photos to keep me happy. 🙂